Iconic photos of a changing city, and commentary on our Collections & Exhibitions from the crew at MCNY.org
In 1979 and 1980, a team of archaeologists led by Diana Wall and Nan Rothschild, excavated the Stadt Huys Block. This site was located between Pearl, Stone, and Broad Streets and Coenties Slip in Lower Manhattan. Most famous for the discovery of the Lovelace Tavern, the Stadt Huys excavations demonstrated that significant archaeological remains could be uncovered in New York City.
Stadt Huys is a complex archaeological site; it spans numerous city lots, and spreads downward through layers of the City’s history. Artifacts and features uncovered at Stadt Huys date from the early colonial period up to the 18th and 19th centuries.
The archaeology team at the City Museum is digitizing artifacts from this site in partnership with the Landmarks Preservation Commission. While cataloging Stadt Huys artifacts a group of similar bottles and fragments were covered. They are all embossed “Jacques & Marsh’s Hive Syrup New York,” and have a number of diagnostic markers indicating that they date prior to the Civil War. Below, bottles from contexts 1064, 1080, and 1121 with identical lettering.
In context 256, from another part of the excavation, a stoneware fragment (pictured to the lower right) was also uncovered with the stamp, “Jacques & Marsh Druggists No-56 Pearl-Street New York,” where Marsh and Co. operated between 1832 and 1833.
So just who are Jacques and Marsh? And what is Hive Syrup? Proprietors Jonathan B. Marsh and Moses Jacques were 19th century druggists in lower Manhattan. They occupied several different shop locations along Pearl Street. Beginning in 1832, city directories place Jacques & Marsh at 56 Pearl Street, and at 67, 69, and 71 Pearl Streets through at least 1850. The business relocated and appears to have changed names every few years. The directories also allow us to trace the various proprietors along with the location changes: Jonathan B. Marsh, Moses Jacques, William H. Jacques, and John I. Northrup.
As detailed in an earlier post here, prior to 1906, medicines and cures , including hive syrup, were widely used to treat all varieties of ailments. Often manufactured with large doses of opium, cocaine, or alcohol, these often did help put infants to sleep, wake people up, or calm nerves (as advertised) but with health costs.
Hive syrup was used to treat croup, bronchial infection commonly seen in children. Soothing remedies were popular treatments, as were expectorants. More well-known hive syrups such as Cox’s or Dr. Ransom‘s have surviving recipes with ingredients such as squill extracts, senega, tincture of tolu, tartar emetic, sugar, water, and alcohol. Tartar emetic, a poisonous white salt, would cause profuse vomiting, though side effects could include hepatitis and death. Although recipes do not survive, for Jacques & Marsh’s Hive syrup, researchers may be able to test the bottles to see if residue analysis can help determine what their syrup was made of.
Few historical references are made to Jonathan B. Marsh, Moses Jacques, and their particular blend of hive syrup. However, court records indicate that Jacques and Marsh were accused of marketing their own version of Morison’s Vegetable Pills without a licensing agreement. They lost the case, and were fined $404 in 1834, close to $11,000 in today’s dollars. In Longworth’s 1834 City Directory, they are listed as “dissolving” from their shop at 67 Pearl, only to open again at 69 Pearl Street under the name Jonathan B. Marsh and Company.
As the artifacts attest, Jacques and Marsh sold Hive Syrup under their own names, although they did not file patents for any of their merchandise. Perhaps the having to pay the $404 fine to Morison and company inspired them to begin producing their own brands of medicines.
While we may never know the full story, excavations such as the Stadt Huys project can shed light on forgotten businesses such as these, giving us a window into 19th century New York. These artifacts and more are being digitized by the City Museum in Partnership with Landmarks Preservation Commission. Please direct research inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.